Romantic suspense starring singer Paige Campbell and computer guru Alan McConnell. An AI created by Alan goes after his prize employee Paige after it is taken over by a paranormal entity that has mistaken Paige for an ancient nemesis. Can they defeat the entity that has a hold over them without doing something evil themselves?
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Something is out to get Paige Campbell . . . something not of this world. She's becoming terrified of telephones. She was happy just working for her Uncle Hans at his music store, taking classes at Dallas Music Academy, and taking gigs playing piano and singing at weddings whenever the opportunity arises. She never dreamed that getting one crank phone call could lead to a nightmare. Alan McConnell hires Paige to sing radio jingles for his advertising agency, and wonders why the woman is so jumpy. When he discovers that she's afraid to answer the phone and thinks she might be going crazy, he determines to help her--and runs headlong into the murk of a paranormal entity that's mistaken Paige for someone else but is determined to haunt her until she "undoes" the curse that the other person supposedly put on the entity. (He's a computer genius who created an AI to help him write hit jingles and analyze others' successes, but the AI has secretly been taken over by a supernatural entity and targets Paige as soon as her phone numbers go into Alan's database.) Can the two of them break the hold that the entity gains over them without resorting to doing something evil themselves--and thereby becoming as wicked as the entity?
Chapter 1: A Strange Phone Call
Paige Campbell was closing up shop when the phone rang.
"Hans’ Music Haus, this is Paige, how may I help you?" She figured her Uncle Hans was calling to check up on her--he still didn't trust her to close the store alone, even after her three-month probationary period had gone off without a hitch--but it was a synthesized voice.
The voice said, "Stop asking questions or you're dead."
"What?" Paige blinked. "Excuse me? You've got the wrong number. Hello?"
The line was dead.
Some kind of prank call. Still, it had shaken her. She tossed her head as if to tell herself she was being silly and settled the handset back in place. She shouldn't have been so startled when the bells jingled to signal a customer at the door, but she jumped.
"Boo!" said her best friend Anndrča, who'd apparently headed over the moment her shift at Joanie's Scraps next door was finished. "Scaredy-cat. What's wrong with you? Customers don't bite outside of Twilight." Then she looked closer and cocked her head, sending her short black-cherry hair swinging. "Wait, there IS something wrong. You're as white as ice cubes frozen to a TruWhite light bulb."
Paige managed a weak smile. "Crank caller. Stupid of me. I guess that's a landmark--my first."
Andi clasped her hands. "How romantic. Better make a scrapbook page. We've got embellishments on sale." She checked her watch. "Ready to go?"
"Just about." It was three minutes past official closing time. She circled around behind Andi, threw the double front deadbolts, and flipped the sign in the front window to CLOSED. "I can't stay long at happy hour, though. And I'm drinking strictly Diet Jolt. I've got a gig."
"A gig! You're getting paid for singing?" Andi squeaked.
"Just a jingle." Back behind the counter, Paige zipped the blue vinyl cash pouch closed and secured the register. "You know, ‘Dialing 555-2214 is like walking in every Dallas door.’ For a radio advertising spot.”
"Jingles are cool. That's how little Janie Fricke from right here in Dallas, Texas, got started."
"Good for her. But I'm not getting started on anything." Paige checked the security system keypad and verified all systems were green-lighted. "I'm just earning tuition money. This was a referral from the dean's office, because the studio called the music school to ask for a mezzo-soprano."
"But still. Wow! You should play some of your own songs for him. I'll bet they'll offer you a recording contract."
"They're not that kind of a studio. Don't get any crazy ideas." She tied her hair back in a ponytail and checked her makeup in the magnetic locker mirror she'd stuck on the side of one of her uncle's file cabinets. "Let's see how this goes. Who knows if the guy'll ever call me again. He probably has a stable of regulars."
"And you're going to be one of them." Andi's voice was confident. "Your voice is so amazing, better than Jessica or Britney or any of the pop-tarts. It's as good as Susan Boyle or . . . or La Streisand."
"Flattery will get you everywhere," Paige said in a Groucho voice as she doused the main lights. "But you know I don't want to get sucked into advertising and commercials. I'm my own kind of artist." Keying in the code to arm the security system, she headed for the back door, clutching the cash pouch close to her chest under her purse. "Hurry, we only have ninety seconds."
Andi rushed to catch up. "Everything that isn't opera is not a sellout."
"I'm not EXCLUSIVELY opera. I sing folk and jazz."
As they scooted out the door, the phone started ringing.
Before Anndrča could say anything, Paige shook her head. "If that's Uncle Hans, he can wait a minute until I get into the car to call him back on my cell. I'm off the time clock at five."
Although that wasn't really the reason she didn't want to go back in and answer.